From an old convenience store to a paper copy shop, Tin Cup's claim to existence doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it doesn't have to. It's tiny and uncomplicated. And so is the menu.
The inside looks like an old home, with an aged piano sitting in the corner, clearly far older than the restaurant itself. But Tin Cup, on Abram Street in Arlington, is right at its peak, and it's been keeping local business people and college students full for about eight years now.
Locals love the soup of the day special ($3). The "Sold Out" sign by the register was a dead giveaway. No chicken and dumplings for dinner this time.
The panini sandwiches keep customers happy, too, made with focaccia bread and topped with Boar's Head provisions. (If you're a sandwich snob, you're familiar with the Boar's Head high-quality product line.)
Sandwiches are Western-themed, so there's a John Wayne panini ($6.95), of course. Everywhere I go, there's a meat-inspired something named after Wayne. He did love steaks. At least his characters did.
The panini is layered with ham, turkey and pastrami, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and chipotle mayo. It's moist, fresh and the mayo -- used on several of Tin Cup's offerings -- is sweetly sharp and creamy but not overbearing. The bread is grilled but soft, and not overly burned or flattened.
The Buffalo Bill ($6.95) and Texan panini ($6.95) also include chipotle mayo, as well as turkey and grilled chicken deli meat, respectively. Both have chives, mozzarella and tomatoes, but avocado in the Buffalo Bill is what won us over. (Sorry, Duke.)
We liked that each meal came with crunchy potato sticks, which we hadn't seen since our day-care days, as well as a cookie no bigger than a half- dollar. Sometimes a miniature treat is all it takes.
The Annie Oakley chicken salad ($6.25) , Plain Jane tuna salad ($6.25) , and Sundance roast beef sandwich ($6.25) are just as simplistic, but also local favorites.
The staff favorite? Tuna salad.
The One Gun ($6.95) lets you choose one meat and cheese on your choice of bread (of the breads we tried, the rye was far and away the tastiest).
One particular sandwich was oddly intriguing: the Caramel Gang ($6.95). It's your choice of ham or turkey (ham works best), mozzarella and mayo on thinly-cut, caramel-smothered apple slices on rye bread. It sounds like an abomination, but it's quite the opposite. The sandwich works. Everyone at the table was totally infatuated with the idea of caramel on deli meat.
Between the ham and gooey, sweet caramel mixture, it all tasted like syrupy pancakes. And have you ever met anyone who hated pancakes? Anyone you trusted? Not ever.